Aug 17 2012 By Tim Street
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BEING tee-total, Daryl Atkins will not be tempted to crack open the giant bottle of Budweiser he received as man of the match in Wembley's FA Cup game on Saturday.
Ironic, then, that the striker, who netted twice in the 3-2 win over Langford, started his career playing pub football in his native Hertfordshire.
In fact, in was while playing for Borehamwood-based boozer Green Dragon that Atkins was converted from a winger into the deadly front-man he is today.
He said: “I was always a wide man, but they were not scoring enough goals and gave me a go up front, and I have never looked back.”
Atkins was eventually picked up by Wembley's tenants, Hendon FC, who passed him on to their landlords at the start of last season as they weren't able to offer him anything.
“Hendon tried to get me back, but by then I was loving it at Wembley,” he said. “They are a good bunch here and the dressing room is great.”
With the game being televised live on ESPN, Atkins may even have caught the eye of watching scouts with his skill and pace as well as his finishing.
Even at the age of 21, he fears he may have left it too late to make it into the pro game, but hopes his exploits will encourage clubs to look further down the non-league pyramid for untapped talent.
He said: “I never thought about pursuing a career in football as a youngster. Getting a foot in the door is so hard. I may only be 21, but when you see kids being picked up by clubs at the ages of 15 and 16, I'm relatively old in those terms.
“If I don't get myself noticed, hopefully what I did can get other players at this level noticed, and if I do that, I will be delighted. There is talent down at this level, it just needs to be spotted.”
It was certainly boy's own stuff for Atkins on Saturday, playing up front with men like Claudio Cannigia and Brian McBride, who have played in World Cups.
He added: “You can't help but learn off people like them, and they have been fantastic. These guys have played at the top level against the very best, and to have them moving you around, telling you where to go and what runs to make, you just make sure you take it all in.”